Telestroke has reached an important milestone, fielding more than 4,300 calls from physicians and providing more than 1,200 recommendations for thrombolysis (tPA) treatment since 2002.

The clot-busting drug tPA can reduce the severity of a stroke and in some cases reverse the effects. Each year in Ontario, more than 15,000 people will be hospitalized with stroke, at a cost to the economy of more than $1 billion in medical and other stroke-related costs. However, stroke’s enormous burden can be significantly reduced by implementing the use of a thrombolytic drug like tPA.

Telestroke makes it possible for a neurologist to be at the patient’s bedside – even when that patient is hundreds of miles away,” said Dr. Frank Silver, Neurologist and Medical Director of Telestroke. “And to assist the local physician with determining the most effective therapy possible.”

Clinical research shows that patients with acute stroke treated with tPA within the first 4.5 hours of symptom onset have better outcomes, with 30 per cent more patients recovering with no or minor disability. The sooner the treatment is started the better the results.

Consults with telestroke have also increased more than 120 per cent in Ontario since 2009, proportionate to the increase in the number of referring sites.

Telestroke is the use of telecommunication technology – long-distance video and data hookups – to connect remote hospitals with specialists in large centres for real-time assessment and management of stroke patients. It is used primarily to support the emergency assessment and treatment of patients experiencing symptoms of acute ischemic stroke in rural and remote communities that do not have 24/7 on-site stroke expertise. Telestroke technology can also be used to deliver other stroke services, such as prevention and rehabilitation.

Ontario’s Telestroke program is powered by the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) the province’s largest, secure and integrated telemedicine network. OTN is a made-in-Ontario solution. OTN’s platform, tools, programs and services – like Telestroke – were developed in consultation with providers in every part of the healthcare system so that real-world solutions could be deployed for the benefit of patients and the system.

Ontario is widely recognized as having created the best Telestroke Program in the country. The Program has matured and reached a stage of recognition by hospitals, practitioners and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care as an invaluable mechanism for improving access to tPA, a best practice standard of care for acute ischemic stroke, in the management of stroke.

“The Telestroke program is revolutionizing stroke care delivery in this province,” said Dr. Telestroke Neurologist David Gladstone. “Ontarians are truly fortunate to have this innovative, world-class program.”

HISTORY OF TELESTROKE

Telestroke was first introduced in Ontario as a pilot project in 2002 and is now a key strategy to achieve equitable access to high quality stroke care for all Ontarians. It began as a regional service model with neurologist consultants in three hubs providing consult services to hospitals in their respective regions.

Through the Ontario Telestroke Program, many patients living in and around communities lacking a stroke specialist are able to access the benefit of treatment with tPA. Today a single provincial Telestroke Program is supported by 13 neurologists who provide consult services to 20 of 38 (53 per cent) referring hospitals in Ontario.

ABOUT OSN

The Ontario Stroke Network provides provincial leadership and planning for the continuum of stroke care in Ontario—from health promotion and stroke prevention to acute care, recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration. For the latest OSN news, visit www.ontariostrokenetwork.ca or follow us on Twitter: @ONStrokeNetwork.

For more information on Telestroke, visit www.ontariostrokenetwork.ca/health-programs-resources/programs/telestroke, or contact:

Patrick Moore
Communications Manager, Ontario Stroke Network
2300 Yonge Street, Suite 1300
P.O. Box 2414, Toronto, Ontario  M4P 1E4
pmoore@ontariostrokenetwork.ca | www.ontariostrokenetwork.ca
Cel: (416) 455-7394 | @ONStrokeNetwork

Telestroke makes it possible for a neurologist to be at the patient’s bedside – even when that patient is hundreds of miles away.
Dr. Frank Silver, Neurologist and Medical Director of Telestroke